Growing up, I always saw my family as rather resourceful. Whilst my Nan grew herbs in her garden and knew how to make cleaning products with water and a bag of lemons; mum shopped around for the best deals and made most of my clothes as a child. My uncle Fred perhaps took it a step too far, and saw resourcefulness as a need to save absolutely everything he came across (including dolls heads in the skip or leaflets in the local library) and hoarded a variety of things “just in case they might be needed one day…”
But what does it mean to be resourceful? Is it generally being imaginative with what you already have access to, and making the most of what situations you find yourself in? Or does it depend on the resources in question, and how you plan to use them? I’m pretty sure Fred never got around to using that dolls head, and I certainly haven’t inherited my mum’s seamstress skills. But surely being resourceful can be achieved with, well, a little less effort?
This question of what it means to be resourceful became ever more prominent for me this weekend, when I hosted an event at Eden Project; as part of my work on the community campaign The Big Lunch. The discussion – led by Business in the Community’s Joey Tabone – kicked off with a brief debate into the theme of resourcefulness, posing the question: “are we really more resourceful as individuals or in the community?”
We heard from a number of experts from the world of resourcefulness; including River Cottage’s Steven Lamb, Jenny Coles from Plymouth Energy Community, Jen Gale of ‘My Make Do and Mend it Year’ and Big Lunch Champion Ali Womack.
Steven brought his personal and professional experiences to the table; sharing his belief that buying local, seasonal and sustainably sourced food is at the heart of being resourceful. For him, we can all make a difference and live greener, more sustainable lives by stopping and asking ourselves “where did this come from and how was it made?”
Jen Gale agreed with this sentiment; adding that being resourceful is remembering that every time we make a purchase, we are making a choice; ultimately placing a vote with our wallets. In this way we all have the power to create the world that we want to live in. One thing that struck me – when Jen was talking about her experience of going a year without buying anything new – was her revelation that she realised that every time she bought something new, at some point it would need to thrown away. But “away” doesn’t really exist, there is no actual place called away!
Jenny Coles chipped in to this; pointing out that something as simple as shared community energy demonstrates resourcefulness on a large and clearly tangible scale. For her, resourcefulness is all about identifying the skills which already exist locally and pooling together your skills and experiences to achieve bigger and better things. Imagine if a small group became a larger one, and they started to buy in to sustainable energy, start up an egg co-op or simply share things and be more resourceful as a collective?
Our final panellist, Ali Womack was proof of the benefits of collective action. Resourceful by nature, Ali made the most of her community’s skills and passions – when organising a Big Lunch street party event – and made bigger and better things happen by involving her wider community to pool resources. For Ali, resourcefulness was all about celebrating the talent, enthusiasm and skills which already existed where she lives.
This all got me thinking. As a passionate, but lazy green living newbie, its promising to know that those little things I’m doing does make me resourceful, and can make a difference. Who knows, maybe my individual lazy actions will one day inspire others to do the same and create some collective action myself! Or perhaps I will join Fred in that skip and see what I can find to save, you know, just in case…